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Egypt: US senator introduces bill to stop latest arms sale

Republican Senator Rand Paul says his new resolution offers the US the choice of siding 'with the Egyptian people, or with their oppressors'
Senator Rand Paul has been a vocal critic of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government.
Senator Rand Paul has been a vocal critic of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's government (AFP/File photo)
By MEE staff in Washington

US Senator Rand Paul has introduced a resolution to the US Senate in a bid to cancel Washington's latest weapons sale to Egypt, criticising President Joe Biden's administration for continuing to reward Cairo with security assistance even as it has "converted a country into a prison".

The bill, introduced earlier this week and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would reject a proposed $2.5bn weapons sale to Egypt consisting of military aircraft, air defence radar systems, and related equipment.

"The United States cannot proudly affirm human rights to be at the center of our foreign policy, while it arms a regime at war with its own people," the senator said in an opinion piece published on Thursday by Responsible Statecraft.

"That is why I will force the Senate to vote on a resolution that would cancel the latest military sale to Egypt's criminal masters.

"Mere slaps on the wrist cannot hide the inescapable fact that the United States has handsomely rewarded Egypt as it degenerated into one of the most autocratic places on the globe. America should in no uncertain terms demonstrate that we will no longer strengthen a strongman."

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The Biden administration notified Congress of the sale late last month, giving Congress 30 days to put forth a bill in opposition to it. It is unclear what support Paul's bill will receive or if it will be passed by the Senate.

Egypt is currently the second-largest recipient of US military aid, receiving $1.3bn each year from Washington. Since 1978, the US has provided Cairo with $50bn in military assistance.

In 2014, Congress began imposing human rights conditions on $300m of the military aid, but former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both issued national security waivers to bypass the restrictions.

In September, the Biden administration decided to withhold a portion of that $300m - $130m - agreeing to release the funds only if the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met a set of human rights demands.

Last month, several news outlets reported that the administration was set to block the $130m in aid after Cairo failed to address those demands. The State Department told MEE, however, that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had yet to make a decision on the funding.

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There has been ongoing unease in Washington over Sisi's treatment of political opponents, with rights groups estimating that Egypt holds about 60,000 political prisoners.

Sisi has consistently denied there are political prisoners in Egypt, and has instead framed the crackdown as part of a fight against terrorism.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egypt is considered to be the world's third-worst jailer of journalists, behind China and Turkey.

Paul has been a vocal critic of Sisi's government, and in 2013 introduced a bill that would have made it a finding of Congress that the Egyptian leader's overthrow of the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was a coup d'etat. The bill would have also cut off assistance to Cairo, however, it failed to pass out of the US legislature.

"My resolution to cancel military sales offers a choice - whether the United States will side with the Egyptian people, or with their oppressors," he said in his opinion piece on Thursday.

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